Do you want more adventures in the year ahead? Maybe you’ve finished the Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge, and you’re looking for a new challenge−something that takes you out of your comfort zone and pushes you beyond what you thought you could do?
Big adventures don’t happen by dreaming−they require planning and preparation. Many big adventures require months of advance planning to line up permits, train physically, and acquire the equipment and know-how you’ll need for success. The first step is to choose adventure. Then take the step to move that adventure from a dream to a plan.
Here are four big adventures and the details you’ll need to make them a reality in the year ahead.
The Trans-Catalina Trail is just off the coast of Southern California on Santa Catalina Island. On a clear day, the island beckons you from the mainland. But make no mistakes−the Trans-Catalina Trail is tough, with steep climbs that will make your quads burn and descents that will test your knees as you criss-cross the island from one end to the other.
The Trans-Catalina trail is 37.2 miles from Avalon to Starlight Beach on the west end of the island, but you’ll rack up another nine miles to get back to Two Harbors for the ferry back to the mainland. It can be done in four days (or less, if you’re really ambitious) but I recommend taking five days, with overnight stays at Black Jack, Little Harbor, Two Harbors and Parsons Landing.
Because of the mild climate, you can hike this year-round, making it a great choice when snow shuts down access to other trails.
Get all the details in our Trans-Catalina Trail guide.
Lost Coast Trail
Rogue waves carry unsuspecting hikers out to sea. A coastline so rugged that Highway 1 was routed 30 miles inland. Beaches where it’s not uncommon to find bear prints in the sand. This is the Lost Coast Trail. You’ll need to acquaint yourself with the tidal charts as the waves crash right on the foot of the cliffs during high tide.
Until recently, you could pick up self-issued permits at the Mattole Beach trailhead on the north end, but as of January 2017, an online permit system and quota has been instituted. The good news is that the trail should be less crowded. The bad news? You’ll have to jump through a few extra hoops to get your permit.
Getting to the Lost Coast Trail is a part of the adventure. It’s quite remote. It took me two days of driving to get there from Los Angeles with a stopover in San Francisco. Even after parking our car at the southern trailhead at Shelter Cove, we still had a nearly 3 hour shuttle ride to our starting point at Mattole Beach.
The weather is unpredictable. The forest (which comes right down to the beach) is considered a rainforest. Yes, it can rain. A lot. But the payoff is a spectacular coastal trail with sights rarely seen in California. The Lost Coast Trail is roughly 24 miles long and can be hiked in about 3-4 days.
Get all the details in our Lost Coast Trail guide.
High Sierra Trail
This 72-mile thru-hike traverses the mighty Sierra Nevada from west-to-east (or the reverse), with two big ascents and topping off on Mt Whitney. You’ll hike over Kaweah Gap and descend into Kern Canyon−territory that the JMT and PCT hikers miss entirely.
Getting from one end of the HST to the other is a challenge. Many people team up and swap cars with a group of friends; one group hiking east-to-west, the other hiking west-to-east. If you can swing it, this is the most economical option. The payoff for the extra legwork? The High Sierra Trail is much less crowded than many of the other big trails in the Sierra Nevada range.
The High Sierra Trail can be thru-hiked in about a week, fitting well into almost anyone’s vacation schedule. It’s the perfect introduction to mountain thru-hiking.
Get all the details in our High Sierra Trail guide.
John Muir Trail
The 211-mile John Muir Trail is a sentimental favorite of mine. I’ve thru-hiked it twice, and I’ll probably do it again. It takes time−most people take about three weeks to hike it−a lot of planning and a bit of luck snagging a permit. But the JMT takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery you can imagine. Crystal-clear streams. Alpine lakes reflecting magnificent, craggy mountain spires. Views that don’t quit, even when your legs want to.
The Six-Pack of Peaks was an essential part of my training for the John Muir Trail, giving me the distance, the net vertical gain, and a taste of the altitudes we would be backpacking at. It’s an adventure of a lifetime, and one that like me, you’ll probably want to hike again someday.
Get all the details in our John Muir Trail guide.
Wrapping it Up
I hope these four adventures have whet your appetite for some extended time on the trails. If you are new to backpacking and unsure about how to get started, join the discussion forums and get answers to your questions, and share your big adventure goals!
I have hiked JMT from near Devil’s post Pile (red meadows) to Tuolumne Meadows. Not a Thru-hike but enough for my wife and I fell in love with Lake Altha near Garnet Lake. We had the lake to our selves that night. I long to go back and see more.